I think I am not the only one who greatly prefers to eat a piece of fruit with a knife, rather than in bites from my hand. A plate is nice, but not necessary. This is less important with the smaller citrus fruits, which can be peeled and divided into attractive individual sections- also very satisfactory. With apples, pears, peaches, and the larger plums, the knife makes a difference to me.
I don't know why this is, and I am aware that it is a little dissonant with the pleasant mental image of curling up with a book, and a pile of apples to munch , Jo March style. Maybe Jo had a pocket knife for those apples; it would be a "boyish" article, and she favored that sort of thing. I am partial to this little painting by Julian Merrow-Smith, whose "postcards" you might enjoy*. This one is called "Apple Quarter and Laguiole Knife". (There is a more recent one with a "Sabatier and Pear Slice". ) My personal favorite sort of knife for the eating of fruit is a pocket knife, and of course you can eat your fruit anywhere at all if you have one of these.
What with Christmas shopping, a new computer, an iphone (yes, I have gone insane) and a trip to England in the offing, I have been spending quite enough , thank you very much. I am nonetheless longing for a knife like this one, and have been for some time. Truth be told, I'm a bit of a knife nerd. I'm not fully qualified for the role, since I've failed to learn the technique of sharpening my knives with a stone. I do believe I need a human instructor for this; the books have failed me. Instead I use a small version of the Furi, by Zytech. It is the only one of its kind which really works for me. Even so, I take the more oft used cutlery for a professional sharpening sometimes.
I understand that a professional chef is very particular about knives, will have only the best, and doesn't lend. My collection is more humble, not to say a little weird-and you can't refuse a volunteer in your kitchen the use of your equipment. I haven't got a matched set of fancy knives, partly because I can't afford a good one, and partly because I prefer to pick and choose. They are fun to buy, keep, and use. so before I move on to my next bossy section on kitchen necessities ("Pantry"), I thought I'd indulge myself by telling you about my knives. You can really get by fine with only three- Chef's, paring, bread- this is pure indulgence.
My first really good knife was an 8" Wusthof high carbon steel chef's knife, and it is the most used knife of all. Old Faithful. It is on the left, in the first photo. If I were choosing the handle now, I'd chose the "Classic Ikon" handle as you see it on the serrated utility knife which is my most recent full-price buy. (I'm moving left to right here). The chef's knife is good for most any task, but especially chopping. Lots of people like a longer one, my daughter finds this one too short for a cook's knife. The 5" serrated utility knife is great for tomatoes, salami, and the cutting of baguettes, and other breads of modest girth. When you see my full-sized serrated bread knife, you'll know why the smaller one is handy. I love the look of that Wusthof Ikon handle, and it feels wonderful in your hand.
Next is a nameless stainless item, made in Japan model, shaped a bit like a fileting knife. I bought it in a hole-in-the-wall hotel gift shop in NYC, many years ago, when I realized I'd failed to pack a knife, and was desperate to break into some cheese I bought. It proved unexpectedly efficient, and has stayed nice and sharp for over 15 years. I've never tried sharpening it, because it has funnly little markings along the edge- I'm not sure what would happen. It's not supersharp-never has been, but it's okay, and doesn't seem to have gotten duller over time. I'm attached to it. Next is a Sabatier green stamina handled 6" cook's knife. I fell for it because of the green handle, even I think it's short for a cook's knife. But it's nice, and interesting, because it has the slimmer French-style blade. Last is a cheapo-line Wusthof Gourmet knife- not forged, it doesn't need to be very strong, because it's just for certain tasks. It's dynamite for cutting high-stacked sandwiches and the like, without squishing them. I think it's so neat that I've given several as presents.
Recently, I've picked up a few new/vintage knives on ebay. Three are carbon steel, and enormous, one is a high carbon steel paring knife, with a cool handle and sharp blade. Before the days of fancy high-carbon steel and even fancier ceramic blades, in my mother's time, carbon steel Sabatier knives were the thing. They were a serious pain, because if you didn't keep them clean and dry, they rusted. but they were the only kind that held a real edge, chefs and butchers used them. In those days there were not a zillion knives of varying quality labeled "Sabatier" and "Languiole"- it was easier to pick by label. Some people think that the newer high-carbon stainless won't match them for edge. I don't know about that, but I am subject to reasonless nostalgia at times. And it's fun to be able to get knives not in general stock shapes and styles.
The second photo shows my vintage Lamson cleaver (just got it- new old stock carbon-steel American), my enormous wide new/vintage Sabatier serrated bread knife (This will cut the crustiest of giant country loaves, and then some, plus it is unbeatable for slicing bar cookies, as you just need one guillotine-type drop to go through the entire block of bar cookies. ), and my new/vintage Dexter (17.5"!) carbon steel slicer (also, I think, American-slices thin, thin, thin hams, etc.), and my just purchased "Vintage Stubai Austria fully forged" paring knife, which says that it is from "France", but which Ralph says actually comes from Austria, and was re-marked as part of some corporate gifting thing. Ralph has supplied me with some lovely almost new old stock knives, and seems to know what he's talking about, unlike moi. A cool thing about this knife (high carbon stainless) is that it has 2 alternate grips- a short one (for paring) and a longer one (more for slicing). Also, it takes a hell of an edge. Then there is my Mundial funny knife- I think it is for shaping vegetables into cunning ovoids. I don't do a whole lot of that- but it's cute, no? I picked that up at a yard sale, along with a couple other odd red knives. The lady who sold them said she got a whole set of these red Mundial knives for Passover, to identify them as clearly separate from her black-handled everyday ones, but some, she didn't use. She thought Mundial knives came from Argentina.
And that's it for me for a good long while knife-wise. Except for the Languiole. I think there's one in my future. Besides this painting, I've had two recent, unexpected encounters with the idea. One was in chocolate and zucchini. The other in a very interesting book I've just read, called The Village Book, by Nicholas Freeling, in which he descibes a view of heaven, involving crouching making a fire, with a laguiole knife in his pocket. His has a corkscrew, as well as a blade. That's the one I want. Unlike some, I won't be able to pick mine out in person, but I may have to find one on the internet, before I leave on my trip in February. If I do, I will have to remember to pack it, rather than carry it on board in my purse, lest it get confiscated.
*Do check out his site, there are many impressive paintings to look at (and often to bid on, if you'd like one for yourself.) Also, you can have his postcard/paintings periodically sent to your email inbox to view, so much nicer than the latest sale on Lands End, or whatever.